Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Profiles in cowardice, courage, and a little bit of both

Noting that as the dam breaks in favor of the New Start treaty, many Republicans now seem, in Rich Lowry's words, to be lining up to get on "the right side," Kevin Drum interprets:

In other words, a big chunk of the Republican caucus has known all along that New START was a good treaty but was holding out for strictly partisan purposes. If it had been close, and giving Obama a black eye had been a serious possibility, they would have voted no. But with that option gone, they're willing to vote yes. It's a real profile in cowardice.

That may be a little too cold.  There is still a choice to be made, and a month ago, Richard Lugar framed it for his fellow Republicans with brutal clarity even as he steeled Democrats' nerves for a showdown.  Immediately after Jon Kyl's bid to simply take New Start off the Senate calendar for this year -- assuring that it would never pass -- Lugar said:

"At the moment, the Republican caucus is tied up in a situation where people don't want to make choices," Lugar told reporters in the hallway of the Capitol building Wednesday. "No one wants to be counted. No one wants to talk about it."....
"Every senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty. Maybe people would prefer not to do his or her duty right now," he said. "Sometimes when you prefer not to vote, you attempt to find reasons not to vote."

Laying out the risks that would be heightened by failure to ratify the treaty -- including nuclear obliteration of U.S. cities, Lugar also ventured a prediction:

"I'm advising that the treaty should come on the floor so people will have to vote aye or nay [even if there's no deal]," he said. "I think when it finally comes down to it, we have sufficient number or senators who do have a sense of our national security. This is the time, this is the priority. Do it."
Lugar not only knows the dynamics of nuclear proliferation and containment, he also knows the dynamics of the Senate. If the treaty is ratified as expected tomorrow, it will be his triumph as much as Obama's. And the nation's.

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